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Steve Rubel was one of the first people to demo Twitter, back in December 2006, and since then he’s been all over it. But he’s come to the conclusion that it is about to jump the shark.
He provides three reasons why this will happen, though I’m not sure I agree with him. Steve writes: “No community has ever had staying power. Twitter right now is poised to fall victim to the same trend.”
Why Steve thinks Twitter has peaked, after a period of 'nuclear' growth:
1) Celebs Flocked to Twitter. "Twitter is losing it's geek creds as celebs flock to the service. Historically, as the geeks go, so goes social media."
2) Twitter is Disorganized. "What was once "a feature" could begin to be seen as "a bug" and lead us to seek more organization. It's also a big reason why Tweetdeck is succeeding."
3) Twitter is a Mile Wide but an Inch Deep. "As Twitter grows and people begin to crave reading Tweets from personalities and others they trust, I wonder if they will want a deeper relationship - one with less anonymity."
All interesting points, but in response…
1) I'm not sure that critical mass is a bad thing. I don't think Ev and Biz would see it that way. Early Facebook users were students, not social media folks. The same can be said of Myspace, which has a core of musicians and music fans. Those businesses are much more powerful now that they've scaled. That social media folks complain about this happening to Twitter simply presents an opportunity for the company. Twitter Groups, anyone? Tags?
2) With regards to disorganisation, Twitter has a tremendous API, and many third party apps help users make sense of it. The likes of Tweetdeck are essential tools for powerusers, to help filter tweets and group tweeters. It's early days, and I think there will be more official Twitter tools and onsite stuff launched in the months to come.
3) It's horses for courses. I like the concise nature of Twitter. It focuses the mind. It's a bit like how movies have movie trailers… bite-sized chunks that tempt you to see the film. You wouldn't want to issue a press release *on* Twitter, but you could so it *through* Twitter. The 140-character framework isn’t a restriction, it’s an opportunity. Brands that remain anonymous and robotic will not succeed, but for my money Twitter is one part of a customer engagement strategy that should take place across various platforms and channels. See the bigger picture.
I might be wrong on this, but what he seems to mean is that Twitter is becoming a little bit too noisy for social media people.
Steve’s advice for Twitter is as follows:
“Twitter can get through ‘the dip’ that stares them in the face, but it will need to adapt by: keeping its core users intact, remaining attractive to corporations and celebs, and by becoming more organized.”
But does Twitter need to pander to ‘core users’? I’m not sure. Consider the way Digg has evolved. Kevin and Jay and the team don’t seem too concerned about the concerns of core users, having annoyed the hell out of many of them, with changes to the way Digg works. Now Digg has 25m unique users a month. Is it better, or worse for that?
With Twitter, powerusers have the tools they need to be more efficient at how they interact with people, helping them to consume tweets and monitor discussion. The tools are out there, and most social media pros will know where to find them. The site will evolve just as Digg has done, for good or ill.
Steve says Twitter should acquire Tweetdeck, and maybe it should, but I’m not sure what message that would send out to the rest of the developer community. From where I’m sitting it was a smart move to let developers add functionality to Twitter for free, and they’ll continue to do that so long as the platform is relatively open (and where there are no conflicts). Developers have helped to cater for the needs of users, showing Twitter the kinds of tools that could be rolled out on the platform. I'd think twice be fore putting a spoke in that wheel.
At any rate, I’m sure the Twitter team is watching - and listening - with intent.
What do you think? Has it jumped the shark for everybody, or just for social media mavens?
[Image by CarrotCreative on Flickr, various rights reserved]